Many experts feel that this has been the most impressive season of Eli Manning's career. His consistent play is responsible for the New York Giants' playoff appearance and round-one victory. Manning's nearly 5,000 passing yards was good enough to rank No. 4 in the NFL. Only Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford threw for more yardage.
Manning was able to find success this season despite dealing with the league's worst rushing attack. The Giants' inability to find consistency on the ground put a lot of pressure on Manning. He attempted 589 throws this season, which is the highest in his career.
New York's ability to make the playoffs without their usually strong running game is a testament to how well Manning played this year.
Of all the top level quarterbacks, Manning has arguably the weakest and most unreliable receiving corps. He truly makes those around him better, and no better example is the emergence of Victor Cruz.
Most quarterbacks would've struggled to quickly build a strong relationship with such an inexperienced player. The fact that Cruz took the place of Manning's favorite target (Steve Smith) only makes their success more impressive.
Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Brees all have reliable and familiar targets in place. Due to injuries, the Giants had to shuffle players in and out of the lineup on a consistent basis. Manning's ability to remain successful with a constantly changing lineup is commendable.
Manning was also forced to deal with the loss of his tight end, Kevin Boss. The other top quarterbacks utilize talents like Jermichael Finley, Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Manning's ability to make those around him better helped Jake Ballard compile 38 receptions, 604 yards and four touchdowns. Until this season, Ballard was seen as more of an in-line blocker than a receiving threat.
Manning deserves to be mentioned with the rest of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. All the top-level quarterbacks find a way to win and do so in the toughest situations. This season Manning has had to deal with inconsistent play, a lack of a running game and a revolving door at wide receiver.
Despite the issues, Manning led the Giants into the playoffs and in position to make another run at the Super Bowl. As my editor Matt Birk pointed out, you can't spell "elite" without "Eli."